Sunday, April 04, 2010

Revolution and the Uprising inThailand

Happy Easter. Easter is about the concept of "a rising," and in today's Boston Globe there is a report on the mass uprising in Thailand by "mainly poor, rural" people against the government. In their latest move, the people all wore red shirts and invaded the upscale shopping malls en masse, refusing to leave and saying if anybody was going to be arrested then all of them would be.

What really caught my attention was buried at the end of the article. A protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan, told the crowd, "Today's another day when commoners will declare war to bring democracy to the country." Earlier the previous day, "protesters swarmed around a Porsche, angrily smashing its windows after its driver bulldozed a line of motorcycles the group had parked."

I don't know very much about what's going on in Thailand, but I am quite certain that Jatuporn Prompan is absolutely right: the goal in Thailand (and the world) is to bring democracy to the country, and this means war--a war to defeat the powerful and privileged ruling elites. In other words, a revolution.

But how can an elite armed with a powerful and violent military force be defeated by people with few if any weapons? Again, what the Thai people are doing points the way. Below I have copied an article describing how the Thai people are creating an alliance with rank-and-file soldiers, in order to deprive the ruling elite of confidence that the army will obey when ordered to attack the people.

When a pro-democracy movement is genuinely a movement of the vast majority of people, then it will be a movement of friends, relatives and neighbors of rank-and-file soldiers; it will be a movement that those soldiers will be exceedingly reluctant to attack; and it can be a movement that those soldiers will decide to support by turning their weapons, when necessary, against the ruling elite. This is how a mass movement for democracy can defeat a ruling class, even one with a strong military force.

To succeed, however, the movement must be clear that it is at war with the ruling class. It must be clear that the outcome of that war will ultimately be decided by which side brings more violent force, or the credible threat of such violent force, against the other.
How does this relate to the philosophy of non-violence?

Non-violent tactics have their place. In order to become a truly mass movement, a movement for democracy must persuade the majority of people that it represents the morally right side of the conflict, and the ruling elite the morally wrong side. The movement must indeed use persuasion to win the support of the people; and this requires, of course, non-violent methods. When the movement confronts the ruling elite before it is powerful enough to forcibly defeat the ruling elite, as the Thai people are now doing, it makes perfect tactical sense to use methods that do not rely on violence. The strategic goal in this case is not to use force against the ruling class (not yet, at least) but to build the movement's strength by clarifying for the larger public 1) what the movement is for, 2) the fact that the ruling class opposes it and will even use violence against it, and 3) the fact that the movement consists of many people.

The problem with the philosophy of non-violence is not that non-violent tactics are never appropriate; the problem is that when it comes time to actually defeat the ruling elite, force or its credible threat must be employed, but the philosophy of non-violence asserts the contrary with its core premise that the oppressor can (and must) be morally persuaded--without reliance on violence or its threat--to stop oppressing.

Ruling elites generally do not believe that their oppression of the people is morally wrong; they do not lose sleep over it. The slave-owners of history did not think slavery was morally wrong. Capitalists do not think wage-slavery is morally wrong. Communist rulers do not think their one-party dictatorships are morally wrong. Israel's rulers do not think Zionist ethnic cleansing is morally wrong. The people can demonstrate the sincerity of their convictions, in an effort to morally persuade the elite to stop oppressing them, until they are blue in the face. It won't defeat the ruling elite. Superior force, or its credible threat, is what it takes.

The philosophy of non-violence is wrong in its assertion that the oppressor can be persuaded, without the use of force or its credible threat, to stop oppressing. The oft-cited example of Gandhi's success in making the British leave India is, ironically, illustrative of this very fact. Gandhi's "victory" did nothing to eliminate the power of a wealthy privileged elite to rule over and oppress the Indian masses, which was the situation immediately after this "victory" and is undeniably still the situation today.

Three cheers for the people of Thailand! Three cheers for their war to bring democracy to the country! Three cheers for their understanding that it is, indeed, a war!

Apologies: I haven't been able to make the wonderful photographs in this article by Thomas Barton appear on this blog. But the captions alone are worth reading. --John S.

Military Resistance:
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The Most Terrifying Sight An Evil Government Can See:

Military Resistance

Red-shirted supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra ...

Mar 28: Thai soldiers wave and give thumbs-up sign to citizens marching In Bangkok against the military dictatorship of politicians and Army Generals that controls Thailand. (Photo: AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

“Women Threw Flowers At The Departing Troops, Who Smiled And Snapped Photos To Cheers From Protesters”

[Thanks to Sandy Kelson, Military Resistance, who sent this in.]

Mar 27 by Thanaporn Promyamyai, AFP [Excerpts]

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thai troops retreated from security posts in the capital Saturday, bowing to demands from 80,000 jubilant red-shirted protesters who mounted a rally to demand fresh elections.

The “Red Shirt” supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra targeted seven points where soldiers have been stationed during two weeks of street demonstrations, including the city’s zoo and Buddhist temples.

In the face of the huge crowds of flag-waving protesters, who arrived in cars, on motorbikes and on foot, the military agreed to withdraw from the positions in Bangkok’s old quarter where the Reds have their main rally base.

Women threw flowers at the departing troops, who smiled and snapped photos to cheers from protesters, who turned the streets red with their colourful clothes and heart-shaped clappers.


Building For The Future:

An Excellent Example Of How To Move Soldiers Towards Armed Revolution Against A Corrupt Government

Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ...

Demonstrators leave no open space between themselves and the Thai soldiers, who are surrounded as they walk in line past the anti-government protesters March 27, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. This is a perfect example of what, in past revolutions, has been described as “the hot breath of the people melts the hearts of the soldiers.” (Photo: AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai soldiers, center, walk in line past anti-government protesters ...

Protesters and cheer and offer flowers to the soldiers as they retreat from their temporary base, March 27, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of protesters marched to seven temporary bases comprising schools and temples and asked the soldiers to abandon their bases and return to their barracks. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ...

Protesters cheer the soldiers as they leave their temporary base following the pressure from protesters March 27, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of protesters marched to seven temporary bases comprising schools and temples and ask the soldiers to abandon their bases and return to their barracks. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hugs ...

A marcher hugs a Thai soldier in Bangkok March 27, 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

A protester and supporter of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ...

A protester kisses and thanks a soldier for retreating from a temporary base in Bangkok, Thailand, March 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai soldiers leave from a horse racing field in Bangkok, Thailand, ...

Warm smiles and waves as Thai soldiers leave the streets to go back to barracks in Bangkok, Thailand, March 27, 2010. Tens of thousands of red-shirted protesters marched across the historic heart of Bangkok on Saturday, clogging traffic in a renewed show of strength aimed at bringing down the government. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)


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